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From Kitchen to Combat: The Changing Role of African American Servicemen in World War I

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Title: From Kitchen to Combat: The Changing Role of African American Servicemen in World War I


1
From Kitchen to Combat The Changing Role of
African American Servicemen in World War I
Charity HaleyDr. Tracey Owens PattonAfrican
American Diaspora Studies Communication
Journalism
PROPOSED RESEARCH PROJECT
Research Objective
Introduction
When the United States of America entered World
War I on April 6, 1917, able-bodied men across
the country signed up to do their part. Once the
draft was instituted, Black men enlisted in
record numbers and new segregated units were
created to manage them. The majority of these men
would not see combat and instead were organized
into labor battalions. There African American
servicemen would spend The Great War building
roads, unloading ships, and digging ditches and
graves. It was not until increasing pressure from
the Black community at home led to the creation
of the 92nd and 93rd divisions that African
American servicemen would see combat in Europe.
The Black press was instrumental in the
governments policy reversal as it provided a
platform for debate and organization within the
African American community.
The disparity between the treatment of Africa
American servicemen and their White counterparts
by the United States military during WWI is often
contemptible. In spite of this treatment, African
American men continued to enlist in record
numbers. This research will address the treatment
of African American servicemen during WWI when
they were subjected to segregation, and Black
regiments were assigned to service rather than
combat units. The United States government would
eventually allow Black men into combat during
this war, but only reluctantly. This research
intends to document the societal pressures that
forced the government to allow African American
men into combat roles. The transition will be
assessed through the examination of articles from
African American newspapers of the time
documenting community attitudes towards The Great
War. Additionally, government records will be
reviewed to establish a pattern of
institutionalized discrimination. Taken together,
the findings will demonstrate a correlation
between societal pressures at home and the
changing role of African American servicemen
abroad.
William S. Elliot of the 92nd Division
Importance of the Study
While copious research has been done on World War
I, much of it has minimized the contributions of
African American servicemen. Likewise, overlooked
are the political actions of the Black
communities at home that resulted in the US
government allowing African American men into
combat roles. This study is being done in the
hopes of contributing to a holistic understanding
of the African American communitys complex
relationship to WWI.
Designated Unit Insignia of the 369th Infantry
Regiment
Historiographical Methods
The 92nd Division marches into a newly liberated
Genoa
  • The University of Wyomings collection of
    African American periodicals and journals from
    the era will be reviewed to establish the
    arguments within the Black community for and
    against the war.
  • Quantitative Data from the Department of the
    Interior housed in the University of Wyoming
    Government Documents Annex will be reviewed to
    establish the numbers and distribution of African
    American troops.
  • A review of publications by the White press will
    be undertaken in an effort to access prevalent
    attitudes of the community in regards to Black
    servicemen.
  • Analysis of these sources may demonstrate a
    correlation between societal pressures at home
    and the changing role of African American
    servicemen abroad.

Purpose Statement
This study will examine the societal pressures
within the United States that eventually forced
the government to allow African American men into
combat roles.
Wounded Veterans in a parade in New York
Acknowledgements
  • Dr. Tracey Owens Patton
  • Rebecca Letts
  • University of Wyoming McNair Scholars Program
  • University of Wyoming Department of African
    American and Diaspora Studies
  • The University of Wyoming Department of
    Communication and Journalism
  • Zackie Salmon , Susan Stoddard, and Pilar Flores

New York's famous 369th Infantry arrive in New
Jersey
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